'Saying thank you is just not enough'

Alicia Linde was 16 years old when she was diagnosed with glaucoma. Suddenly, as a high school student, she was thrown into a world of eye tests, doctor visits and the prospect of losing her sight in just a matter of years.

“It was very hard to feel normal at that age when you’re dealing with a disease often attributed to older patients,” Alicia said. “On top of that, when I received the diagnosis my doctors were certain that I would be blind by the time I was 30.”

In an effort to keep her eye pressure under control and deter major vision loss, Alicia has had more than 60 ocular surgeries and other courses of treatment. Despite her decreasing vision and frequent trips to the eye doctor, she persevered and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa. After college she went on to become a statistician and eventually settled down with her husband and daughter in Aurora.

Unfortunately, due to the repeated stress of the surgeries and an allergy to some drops commonly used for patients with glaucoma, Alicia’s eyes continued to weaken. For years she saw a team of specialists at Wheaton Eye Clinic who worked to keep her eye pressure under control and alleviate persistent retinal and corneal swelling.

“My doctors are the most caring group of incredible individuals I could ask for,” Alicia said. “Even with a case as difficult as mine they continue to fight for me and my sight.”

Eventually the combination of ocular issues became too much for her cornea to handle.

“In November 2015, I was having enormous difficulty seeing,” she said. “I even wound up having to take a leave of absence from my job.”

With severely impaired vision, Alicia’s life was turned upside down. She forfeited daily pleasures like reading, calligraphy and cross stitch. Even taking the stairs or watching TV were insurmountable obstacles.

“I suddenly realized how much we use and rely on sight,” Alicia said, “and, even more, how much we take it for granted.”

In April 2016, after months of waiting and efforts to control her retinal swelling and other symptoms, Alicia received a cornea transplant with the help of Dr. Anna Park and Eversight. Today, she’s back at work as a statistician in downtown Chicago and regains more of her independence with each passing day.

“My cornea donor returned my life to me, and I will be forever grateful and strive to do right by them,” Alicia said. “Without this transplant, I would still be sitting at home feeling hopeless. It is so humbling to know that someone could be so selfless and generous as to do this for a stranger. Saying thank you is just not enough.”